Archive for Sunday, March 25, 2001

FBI brass to face lie detector tests

March 25, 2001


— About 500 FBI employees with access to intelligence information will be given lie detector tests beginning next week, the first security reform to come from the arrest of alleged spy Robert Hanssen, officials said Friday.

FBI Director Louis Freeh has also ordered reviews of all "sensitive investigations" to determine if other agents have accessed information outside their normal duties, and he plans to beef up the bureau's "re-investigation" of agents involved in intelligence cases, according to a memo sent to FBI employees.

Freeh has long resisted expanding the use of polygraph exams, but many counterintelligence experts contend Hanssen might have been caught earlier if he had been required to take one. Hanssen, accused of spying for Moscow since 1985, was never polygraphed during his 25-year career at the bureau.

The 500 employees who will face the first polygraph tests of their careers include about 150 top managers at FBI headquarters in Washington, special agents in charge of regional offices and any others with access to sensitive intelligence material, officials said.

The tests will be "counterintelligence-focused," according to the memo. Employees will not be asked about personal issues including finances, drug use and sexuality. Refusing to be tested could result in a job transfer, the loss of a security clearance or "disciplinary action" for insubordination, according to the memo. Officials said Friday they did not know if Freeh would be tested.

FBI officials billed the plan in part as a way to shore up public confidence in the wake of Hanssen's arrest.

"Everybody understands this has to be done, that we have no choice," FBI spokesman John Collingwood said. "No one wants to do anything that indicates mistrust in employees, but everybody recognizes that we had a serious breach here. We have to make sure it

doesn't happen again."

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